Sunday, February 1, 2015

Annotated Boswell Bestsellers for the Week Ending January 31, 2015.

The first thing to know is that it's quite the storm out there. We are currently open but are likely to close early. Why not call first? (414) 332-1181. And of course we can also help you hold books and place orders for you for later.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
2. The Girl on the The Train, by Paula Hawkins
3. The Big Seven, by Jim Harrison
4. Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper
5. Lila, by Marilynne Robinson
6. Outline, by Rachel Kusk
7. Vanessa and Her Sister, by Priya Parmar
8. Mr. Mac and Me, by Esther Freud
9. West of Sunset, by Stewart O'Nan (event Friday 3/20)
10. The Soul of Discretion, by Susan Hill

Etta and Otto and Russell and James is about an 83-year-old woman who leaves her Saskathewan farmhouse to see the ocean, with only a note left for husband. We have a nice staff rec posted for Emma Hooper's novel from Boswellian Jen, but another fan of the book is Emily St. John Mandel, who reviewed the book for The Guardian. "Where the book succeeds brilliantly is as a meditation on friendship and marriage, on bonds forged over decades. As Etta walks, the narrative begins to move back and forth between the present and far-distant past, to Otto’s childhood on the prairie farm, his boyhood friendship with Russell, Etta as a young schoolteacher, the letters Otto and Etta exchanged when Otto went away to war. Hooper’s depiction of life in rural Saskatchewan in the first half of the 20th century is vivid and beautifully rendered."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
2. Plenty More, by Yotam Ottolenghi
3. When the Facts Change, by Tony Judt
4. The Man Who Couldn't Stop, by David Adam
5. Convictions, by Marcus Borg
6. The Oldest Living Thing in the World, by Rachel Sussman
7. This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein
8. The Secret History of Wonder Woman, by Jill Lepore
9. Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
10. There Was and There Was Not, by Meline Toumani

Though we were never privileged to host cultural critic Tony Judt in his lifetime, we did actually have an event for Jennifer Homans, his partner, who provided the introduction for When the Facts Change: Essays, 1995-2010. In The New York Times Book Review, Samuel Moyn writes: "From his post at The New York Review of Books, where he first wrote in 1993 and ultimately became one of its most frequent contributors, Judt swept aside some of his old assumptions and faced new realities lucidly, transforming himself from a scourge of Communism into a critic of American empire. This collection is a reminder of Judt’s clear mind and prose and, as Homans says in her lovely introduction, his fidelity to hard facts and to honest appraisals of the modern scene."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler (event Thursday 4/16 at Shorewood Public Library)
2. Lydia's Party, by Margaret Hawkins
3. Istanbul Passage, by Joseph Kanon (event Wednesday 3/11)
4. What the Lady Wants, by Renée Rosen
5. I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes
6. Someone, by Alice McDermott
7. Mr. Palomar, by Italo Calvino
8. This Old Homicide, by Kate Carlisle
9. The Strange Library, by Haruki Murakami
10. The Alchemist 25th Anniversary Edition, by Paulo Coelho

We don't normally have a non-event, non-course-adoption, non movie-tie-in, non George-R.R.-Martin mass market in our top ten so I thought I'd call out This Old Homicide by Kate Carlisle, a fixer upper mystery featuring contractor and part-time sleuth Shannon...wait for it...Hammer. An elderly neighbor is dead and his home is ransacked. Was a thief after a priceless necklace. Lots of cozies come with recipes; I haven't checked but there might be a few good repairs tips in this.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Slowing Time, by Barbara Mahany
2. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
3. Kitchen Literacy, by Ann Vileisis
4. Gaming at the Edge, by Adrienne Shaw
5. Men We Reaped, by Jesmyn Ward
6. Farm City, by Novella Carpenter
7. The Girls of Atomic City, by Denise Kiernan
8. The Value of Nothing, by Raj Patel
9. Christianity without God, by Daniel Maguire
10. Guerrilla Gardening, by David Tracey

UWM classes start and that means some course adoption titles creep into our top ten. As I generally mention at this point, we provide books for very few classes, usually from professors who use trade (as opposed to text) titles who want their students to step off campus and possibly discover a local bookstore. It's fun when I've actually read one of the titles, like Novella Carpenter's Farm City, the story of a woman who raised crops and even livestock on an urban plot in Oakland. It was one of New York Times critic Dwight Garner's favorite books of 2009, the year it came out.

Books for Kids:
1. The Boy in the Black Suit, by Jason Reynolds (event Mon. 4/13 at East Library)
2. All Fall Down #1: Embassy Row, by Ally Carter
3. Top Ten Clues You're Clueless, by Liz Czukas
4. The Lonely Hearts Club, by Elizabeth Eulberg
5. Ask Again Later, by Liz Czukas
6. We Can Work it Out, by Elizabeth Eulberg 
7. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen (event for Barnett at Cudahy Library Tues 3/3)
8. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, by Katherine Rundell
9. Prom and Prejudice, by Elizabeth Eulberg
10. I was Here, by Gayle Forman

Did you guess we hosted three teen authors at the North Shore Library on Wednesday? Phoebe and I had a great time with Ally Carter, Liz Czukas, and Elizabeth Eulberg (I detoured to Margaret Hawkins' event at the Lynden, which was pretty close by). Our next teen event is Monday, February 9 at the Greenfield Public Library with Amanda Hocking for Frostfire.

Just out is I Was Here, the newest from Gayle Forman, one of the YA stars of 2014, due to the release of If I Stay as a movie. Stephen Chbosky writes, of the new book, "I Was Here is a pitch-perfect blend of mystery, tragedy, and romance. Gayle Forman has given us an unflinchingly honest portrait of the bravery that it takes to live after devastating loss." Glad to know that Gayle Forman books will continue their tradition of three word titles. I think at this point a change up would throw everyone off balance.

Here's what is reviewed locally in today's Journal Sentinel!

Jim Higgins admires the versatility in Kelly Link's fine new collection, Get in Trouble. 'Link has won Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy and Tiptree Awards for her fiction, but no single taxonomic label, such as fantasy, adequately covers what she does. She can turn a sentence to match any well-bred M.F.A.: "Was Maureen the golden light ahead or the darkness that followed behind?'"

If you need a second opinion, Sarah Waters writes: "Get in Trouble contains some of Link’s best writing yet. These are not so much small fictions as windows onto entire worlds. This is a brilliant, giddying read."

Frog, Mo Yan's first novel published in the United States since winning the Nobel Prize gets critiqued by Mike Fischer. He writes: "The resulting vignettes are ultimately more interesting than the central narrative, which assumes an increasingly strident character — one filled with essentialist paeans to babies and the cult of motherhood, coupled with sentimental flights of magical thinking — as the novel moves toward its close. But at its best, Frogis reminiscent of — if not nearly as good as — One Hundred Years of Solitude; Tadpole even invokes Gabriel García Márquez's fictional town of Macondo in describing his own writing.

A cultural history of a great songwriting era unfolds in The B Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song, from critic Ben Yagoda. Chris Foran of the Journal Sentinel observes that "Diving into the lives of the men and women who wrote the songs that made the whole world sing, Yagoda adds heart and backstory to the standards that defined American popular music for half a century."

Front page on The New York Times Book Review is Guantánamo Diary, by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, reviewed by Mark Hacker.

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